Learning to adapt
Living in India comes with many challenges; I am constantly being pushed outside of my comfort zone and forced to adapt. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines adapt as changing your behavior so that it is easier to live in a particular place or situation. I think the ability to adapt is the most important characteristic in order to be successful here at Educare.
At home, I live in the comfort of a city that maintains a pretty constant 20- 28 degrees, bearing no humidity. I live on the coast and can feel the sprinkles of the ocean in the wind. I shower everyday. In fact, when it is really hot (about 30-35 degrees, which is not very often), I may even shower twice a day. Conversely, here in India I live in a rural village, far from the sea. The temperature ranges from 38-50 degrees every day. I wasn’t even aware temperatures like this existed, prior to living here. The humidity is sweltering and thick—the kind of thickness that makes it hard to breathe some days. My body is constantly wet and sticky and my face glistens with sweat during all hours of the day, like I just finished a 10km race.
But here I shower once every three-four days at maximum. I use less then half a bucket, about 5 plastic water bottles in total. Water is a scarcity here and water shortages occur on a daily basis. We have gone two days without water, though I am sure at some point we will go longer. But it is in those days without water, when you realize how critical water is to everything here. Cooking (we cook 3 meals a day here, and cooking requires water), flushing the toilet, brushing our teeth, cleaning our dishes to name a few. But we adapt. All the locals here live in these conditions, so we learn to. We use less water when we have access to it. We create systems to reserve and reuse water. For example we leave out buckets to catch rainfall and we reuse the water from our laundry and our dishes to flush the toilet. And we shower with minimal water, only when we really start to smell. We are constantly aware of our consumption. And after four days in thick, 46-degree heat, when we finally take our bucket showers, (even if 5 minutes later we are coated in sticky sweat) that first pour of the water on hour heads revives us.
Our cluster is also very rural. The closest city is a 1-hour bus ride. We have to walk 20 minutes to the “downtown” area of our village, which consists of a few small shops that sell Indian sweets and pakora, and three vegetable stands. If we want to cook pasta, we have to travel on the bus 30 minutes to get it. If we want Nescafe instant coffee, we travel on the bus 1 hour to the supermarket. If we want to eat at a restaurant, we travel 1 hour on the bus. In our town, there are three options for us to eat at if we don’t feel like cooking. The three dhabas sell some type of prantha, dal, or noodles.
We cook based on what is in season. That usually means for months at a time we eat some variation of the same 3-5 vegetables. This gets hard and people start to get sick of the food. But, we have to eat. So, we try to get creative and cook things in different ways. For example, maybe last night we had a mix veg with eggplant, zucchini, and tomato in Indian spices. Tonight, instead we will grill the eggplant, zucchini, and tomatoes in coconut oil to create a more exotic and unique flavor. This way, it tastes like we are eating something different.
Whether there is a water shortage or we tired of the food—we adapt together. It is not necessarily always out of choice, but rather out of necessity. But we do it together. And we make jokes about it together. We lighten the mood about the situations by making jokes about foods we miss or about how good we smell without our showers. We are the only ones who are going through the same experience, so as we adapt we try to make jokes of the situations to create a positive mood and energy. We are bonded to those living with us through our shared experiences.
Being able to adapt, whether it is to the weather, the food, the lack of resources, the isolation, the language, the culture, or the inefficiency, is crucial to your success at Educare. But even more important, is creating an environment with your fellow Educare housemates that enables you to support each other, have fun, and make jokes about the crazy situations that ensue; this is crucial for your sanity.
Punjab Cluster Coordinator